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Putin, Erdogan Discuss Armenian-Azeri Tensions


RUSSIA -- Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leave after their joint news conference following the talks in Moscow, March 5, 2020

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned against attempts to further heighten tensions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone when he spoke with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan by telephone on Monday.

The two men discussed the recent deadly clashes on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan during the phone conversation which the Kremlin said took place “at the initiative of the Turkish side.”

“Vladimir Putin stressed the importance of preventing any steps that could cause an escalation in tensions,” the Kremlin reported in a statement.

“Both presidents spoke in favor of resolving the conflict through peaceful means, through talks.They expressed their readiness to coordinate efforts to stabilize the region,” it said.

Erdogan’s office also said the two leaders talked about the “Armenia-Azerbaijan tension” but gave no details.

Turkey has blamed Armenia for the hostilities on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border which broke out on April 12 and continued for several days, leaving at least 17 soldiers from both sides dead. It has pledged to continue to strongly support Azerbaijan in the Karabakh conflict, including with military assistance.

Meeting with senior Azerbaijani military officials on July 16, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar vowed that Armenia will be “brought to account” and “will be drowned under this plot.” Erdogan’s National Security Council said afterwards that Ankara “will support any decision by Azerbaijan.”

Armenia has condemned these unusually strongly-worded statements that raised the possibility of Turkish intervention in the Karabakh conflict. It has branded Turkey a “security threat to Armenia and the region.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged Ankara to exercise restraint in its reaction to the Armenian-Azerbaijani skirmishes in a July 23 phone call with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Russia is allied to Armenia and has thousands of troops stationed in the South Caucasus state. By contrast, Turkey has close ties with Azerbaijan cemented by ethnic and cultural affinities between the two Turkic nations.

Erdogan phoned Putin hours after it was announced that the Azerbaijani and Turkish armies will begin on Wednesday joint military exercises in various parts of Azerbaijan. A short video released by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry showed a convoy of Turkish military trucks carrying soldiers and heavy weapons entering Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan region in advance of the drills.

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